Last Thursday I stopped by Beach Street Cafe in Santa Cruz to enjoy the best Eggs Benedict this side of anywhere. I prefer to switch out the ham for turkey and get fruit instead of the stewed potatoes that come with the meal that also includes a glass of Odwalla orange juice, champagne, or mimosa. A pretty good deal for ten bucks.
As I passed through the entrance of the old two-story building, I immediately heard an old familiar Talking Heads song playing on the stereo speakers. The Heads were followed by Adrian Belew then Laurie Anderson, and before long, I had heard a dozen or so of my favorite artists including Mountain Animal Hospital, the Vox Jaguars, King Crimson, Harry Nilsson, California Guitar Trio and Captain Beefheart, to name a few, (I wish I had written them all down). I asked my server if we were listening to a satellite radio station and he informed me that it was the Beach Street mix that gets played on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
They probably wondered if I would ever leave because I remained perched in front of the large glass window of the restaurant that looks out at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for over an hour. Perfect for people watching... one of my favorite pastimes. As I sat watching the world going by the window, a bicyclist lost control and wrecked as she crossed the railroad tracks in front of the Casino. Her bike and body slammed hard against the unforgiving surface of iron rails and cold pavement. My server, as if anticipating the event, grabbed a bag of ice and ran out to see if the unfortunate biker was injured or needed assistance. Apparently, this isn't the first time this has happened. Shocked, stunned, and a little wounded but not broken, the biker peddled away. She'll be more cautious next time she rides this route.
In addition to great food and music, Beach Street Cafe is known for having one of the largest collections of Maxwell Parrish prints in the world. The fantastic and imaginative prints occupy almost every square inch of the powder-blue walls inside the restaurant that has stood less than a hundred yards from the ocean for over a century, making it the oldest building in the area.
Located across the street from the world famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Beach Street Cafe is a special place to enjoy the cool breeze and view the Beach while listening to great music and dining on excellent cuisine. I prefer going there in the off-season months when there are fewer tourists, and the service is more personalized.
Beach Street Cafe has a long history, and while I was there, the owner Willie Case, stopped by so I took the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions about his unique restaurant. He told me that it had been built in the late 1800's, and that by 1902, it was called the St. Francis Grill. Originally, the restaurant enjoyed a longer frontage on Beach Street, and had been known for having the longest bar in California. In 1984, the restaurant was purchased by Willie and his wife Dolly Case, whose already extensive collection of original Maxwell Parrish prints found a new home in the Cafe. The rest is history... the finest food, art, music, climate, and service. I can't imagine Santa Cruz without Beach Street Cafe. Bon appetit!